When Facebook Inc. wanted to refine its strategies and offerings for large corporations, it formed a Client Council to get advice from the chief marketers of companies such as P&G, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart and Unilever.
When Facebook decided this year to form such a council for small- to medium-sized businesses and organizations, it enlisted Hammonton's Eagle Theatre and 11 other businesses and groups (such as a plumber in Kansas City, Mo.) that have used the social marketing site successfully.
The Eagle Theatre, a non-profit founded in 2009, has used Facebook to target its area audience and connect with people from North Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, said Jim Donio, chairman of the Eagle Theatre board.
"Facebook is a major reason we've been successful these last few years, especially in the depths of the recession," he said. "We've not only survived but thrived. A lot of that I attribute to our talent and the quality of our productions, but also to using Facebook in conjunction with paid advertising to get the word out there."
Donio, 37, of Ham-monton, and representatives from the 11 other members ofthe Facebook SMB Coun-cil spent two "very intensive" all-day sessions at the company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters last month.
"Mostly it was a dialog back and forth with a huge team of their best and brightest engineers and officers, all the way up to Chief Oper-ating Office Sheryl Sandberg," Donio said.
Since then, the Eagle Theatre has been in touch with Facebook daily, on the phone, through email, and in a private group on the Facebook site, he said.
Facebook wants to know how the smaller businesses and groups learned to use their site, how its products can be improved, and what can be done to encourage others to use the site.
The issue is a critical one for Facebook. A story in this month's Advertising Age magazine reporting on the SMB Council depicted it as mainly an effort to get the 25 million small- and medium-sized businesses with free Facebook pages to join the 1 million that are paid advertisers.
Donio said it's important to think of Facebook as part of a targeted campaign, rather than a one-shot generic message that is almost sure to fail.
"A plumbing business in Absecon, for example, might want to focus on the people in the 30 miles around them or a few towns in which they want to grow, not someone in Sri Lanka or even elsewhere in the U.S.," he said. "Their Facebook presence can be leveraged with print media such as newspapers and direct mail, and Yahoo. You want to layer it, to reach as many people in as many different ways as you can, and be very repetitive."
Donio also suggested that businesses and groups make the message and its tone part of the plan.
"You can't just scream 'We have a sale!' At the Eagle Theatre we created our voice. Our artistic director actually produced it like a stage show," he said. "We can keep it fresh by adding something funny or relevant. And if we see it getting some traction, we lean into it and spend some ad dollars there."
The next actual show of the professional Equity Theater will be "Glengarry Glen Ross," which will begin its run Friday and continue through May 17. Tickets may be purchased at theeagletheater.com.
Last place again
Uh-oh. The state we were counting on staying worse for business than New Jersey has broadened its tax bases, lowered rates and reduced the complexity of its flawed corporate tax code.
Those changes, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, would be enough to lift New York from last place among the 50 states to 48th if this year's State Business Tax Climate Index were recalculated.
That would make New Jersey worst in the nation again, reversing our brief climb to 49th place following some modest tax changes by Gov. Christie and the Legislature.
The Tax Foundation said Tuesday the new New York would rank 4th best among states on corporate taxes, up from 25th. Its changes include:
• reducing the four different tax bases for calculating corporate tax to three at first and then two;
• reducing the corporate net income tax rate from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent;
• raising the threshold at which it levies estate tax over time to the higher federal threshold.
The changes came after discussions between Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration and the Tax Foundation on how the state's tax climate could be improved.
New York is heavily advertising its improved corporate tax posture, trying to lure startups and existing businesses from states such as New Jersey.
On Thursday, the N.J. Chamber of Commerce announced its support for proposals to provide property tax relief, phase out the estate tax and lower the sales tax from 7 percent to 6 percent.
"We applaud the Assembly Republican leaders for their proposed initiatives to lower taxes and make New Jersey a more competitive business state," chamber President and CEO Thomas Bracken said in a statement. "We encourage the Legislature to act upon these bills expeditiously, as job growth and business retention would be greatly enhanced."